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President Barack Obama's 2008 Republican rival on Tuesday accused senior administration officials of leaking classified information to news organizations to boost the Democrat's national security reputation and re-election chances.
In a speech on the Senate floor and a separate interview with reporters, Sen. John McCain of Arizona criticized the administration for the disclosure of once-secret information, arguing that the publication of such information undermines national security.
"They're intentionally leaking information to enhance President Obama's image as a tough guy for the elections," McCain told reporters. "That is unconscionable."
The White House had no immediate reaction to McCain's criticism.
McCain singled out the recent report in The New York Times, based on anonymous sources, that said Obama secretly had ordered the use of a sophisticated cyberweapon, known as Stuxnet, to attack the computer systems that run Iran's main nuclear enrichment facilities. The senator also cited published reports about the drone campaign against terrorists.
He called on the administration to appoint a special counsel to investigate.
"With the leaks that these articles were based on, our enemies now know much more than they even did the day before they came out about important aspects of the nation's unconventional offensive capability and how we use them. Such disclosures can only undermine similar ongoing or future operations and, in this sense, compromise national security," McCain said on the Senate floor. "For this reason, regardless of how politically useful these leaks may be to the president, they have to stop."
McCain suggested that a "flurry of anonymous boasting" over the operation that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden led to the identification of Dr. Shakil Afridi, the Pakistani physician who helped the United States track down bin Laden. Afridi was recently convicted of high treason and sentenced to 33 years in prison.